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Clients Ask: Can Face Masks Cause Acne?

Masks: We love the protection they offer, but we don’t love what they're doing to our skin. It’s likely your spa clients have been asking you the burning question, "Can face masks cause acne?" The unfortunate answer is: "Yes." Face masks have become a normal part of daily life and, as spa professionals, we know your clients are now coming to you and your spa for solutions (and relief!) from mask-induced acne and irritation. To help, we enlisted some of our favorite skin care experts (our Eminence Organics International Trainers) to share their best advice on how to coach your clients to clear skin — even under a mask.

Reusable face masks hanging on clothesline

Mask Hygiene: Mask Care Habits

To start, you’ll want to chat with your clients about their masking and mask care habits. While this is a new area of self care for all of us, it’s important to get it right in order to curb the development of acne and breakouts caused by face masks.

As a Certified B Corporation, our company is proud of our commitment to the environment. For this reason, we always recommend using reusable face masks. (In fact, you may have already noticed your local Eminence Organics representatives and estheticians sporting their reusable Eminence Organics masks!) However, reusable masks do require extra care. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourage “regular” washing of reusable masks, and infectious disease expert Dr. Amesh A. Adalja specifies: “It’s best to wash them after each use, [as] the mask itself can become contaminated.”

"Why Do Face Masks Make Me Break Out?"

While wearing face masks is a habit that's essential for our safety, Eminence Organics International Trainer Jude Herrera reminds us that keeping them clean is essential for our skin and helps prevent breakouts: “Masks that are reused can harbor oils and bacteria. They also trap heat and moisture against the skin, allowing bacteria to thrive, which can cause acne and irritation.” He recommends using color- and fragrance-free detergents for lower risk of irritation. Pro tip: Don’t want to do laundry every day? Neither do we! We recommend stocking up on a few different masks and throwing them all in with your weekly load.

If you must use disposable masks, International Trainer Katie Rattray says specific materials should be avoided because they can cause problem skin. Specifically, she warns us to “watch out for latex, which can increase the likelihood of contact dermatitis.” Similarly, our makeup can also cause irritation and acne under our face masks. International Trainer Hector Rafael says to avoid using poor quality cosmetics, which are often comedogenic (in other words, pore-clogging). And finally, step outside for a mask break when you can! “Taking breaks allows for a clean flow of oxygen,” says Hector, and these breaks give any bacteria-friendly moisture a chance to dry out.

Prevent Breakouts From Mask-Wearing

Once your clients have their mask care habits down, it’s time to adjust their skin care routine. After all, it’s always better to prevent breakouts than to wait until they need treatment.

Katie counts on her two most effective ways to keep mask-induced breakouts at bay: 1) Create a barrier between the skin and mask and 2) Stay hydrated. “Masks seem to suck up and draw out any moisture from the skin,” says Katie. She recommends upping your client’s skin game with facial oils during the day: “Not only will this seal in moisture, but it creates a physical barrier from the mask.” The Facial Recovery Oil is the perfect option for clients who are breakout-prone already, whereas dryer skin types will love the Linden Calendula Treatment. She also recommends that hydration continues at night with richer creams for overnight use.

“If you have a client using a cleanser with exfoliating beads or harsh foaming agents, switch them to a gentler cleanser that won’t compromise their skin, increasing the chance of irritation.”

For Eminence Organics International Trainer Brian Goodwin, prevention starts with the first step in any skin care routine. Brian says: “If you have a client using a cleanser with exfoliating beads or harsh foaming agents, switch them to a gentler cleanser that won’t compromise their skin, increasing the chance of irritation.” Try the Calm Skin Chamomile Cleanser for sensitive skin and to keep the skin’s protective moisture barrier intact. For problem skin, the Clear Skin Probiotic Cleanser purifies and reduces oil with salicylic acid, while yogurt moisturizes and cools. If you’re looking for a gel texture in a cleanser, the Stone Crop Gel Wash cleanses skin without stripping the skin of moisture. Stone crop, chamomile and shea butter combine to also brighten and balance the complexion.

Still, many of your Clients may be heading back to work and school, which can mean 8+ hours of mask wear. That’s a lot of time to trap oil, heat and potential bacteria on the skin. For clients that require more than the typical morning and evening cleanse, try Brian’s solution — DIY on-the-go cleansing pads!

How it works: Apply the Clear Skin Willow Bark Exfoliating Peel to a clean cotton round. Seal it in a small bag or air-tight container and take it with you. “Use it in the middle of the day to remove residue and cleanse where the mask has been in contact with,” he instructs. “Rather than scrubbing, coach your clients to gently glide the pad over the skin with minimal pressure.”After cleansing, applying a toner helps balance and calm your skin. Try the Stone Crop Hydrating Mist to increase your skin’s hydration level and to leave it looking clear and moisturized.

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Treat Mask-Induced Breakouts

Of course, no matter how well we coach our clients, stubborn skin conditions can still surface. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to treat breakouts and irritation caused by face masks.

To zero in on problem areas, Brian recommends using the Clear Skin Targeted Treatment as a “Tide to go-like” spot acne treatment. The concentrated formula will flush out pores and improve the appearance of skin that looks irritated by mask wear. The Clear Skin Probiotic Moisturizer also works quickly on problem skin - plus, the cucumber in it leaves a cooling sensation that’s especially welcome after a long day of mask wear. For clients that want to reduce redness as well as the appearance of fine lines, the Yellow Sweet Clover Anti-Redness Masque assists with both. It contains jojoba oil, sweet clover and stone crop to minimize the appearance of irritation and leave your skin looking youthful. 

And while it may seem counter-intuitive, a little extra heat can also help. A spicy mask like the Eight Greens Phyto Masque - Hot creates a warming sensation on the skin, helping improve the appearance of breakouts. You can also encourage your clients to book a series of spicy treatments — such as our Blueberry Detox Firming Peel — for a regular dose of heat and a professional exfoliation. Just remember, for clients with sensitive skin, start with a test patch to see how they respond to the sensation.

Lastly, you’ll want to set your clients up with a nourishing night treatment. As trans-epidermal water loss peaks while we sleep, it’s more important than ever to hydrate. Our top picks? “The Facial Recovery Oil is a great nighttime treatment for balancing sensitive or problem skin,” says Jude. And Katie recommends the Acne Advanced Clarifying Hydrator, which is a powerhouse at treating acne without drying out the skin. Jude recommends mixing this award-winner with your nightly serums.

While the cause of mask-induced acne and irritation may be new, the skin conditions are not. We have the full range of products to help you and your clients avoid the unfortunate effects masks have on the skin.

For more award-winning education, find out how to become an Eminence Organics Spa Partner.

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